For CBC, puck stops here

Rabinovitch facing criticism over lock out

MONTREAL — Canuck pubcaster CBC finally settled with its 5,500 locked-out staffers Oct. 2 after seven weeks of programming turmoil. But clinching the deal does not solve its problems.

Now embattled CBC prexy Robert Rabinovitch faces a firestorm of criticism over why he locked out his employees — the third since he took over in 1999 — and then caved in to their demands for full-time hires rather than short-term contracts.

Many members of Parliament in the ruling Liberal Party, under pressure from constituents unhappy with the loss of programming, have complained about Rabinovitch’s action.

One opposition New Democratic Party MP, Charlie Angus from Timmins, Ontario, backed some of CBC’s reporters in demanding Rabinovitch ankle.

Meanwhile, CBC might have been irreparably damaged by the prolonged labor dispute.

Rival CTV has been heavily promoting its national newscasts, while both CTV and Global have a head start on the fall sked. CBC was forced to delay the start of its new season.

The dispute has also focused attention on the CBC’s position in the Canuck TV landscape.

It still competes in the commercial big league, offering National Hockey League games and Hollywood movies. But many wonder if — in this 200-channel universe — it should be carving out a more distinctive space as a wholly Canadian, non-commercial broadcaster.

In fact, hockey was the main reason management finally made a deal.

“Hockey Night in Canada,” the network’s top-rated Saturday night program, was set to begin Oct. 8, and management needed the labor dispute over before the first puck dropped.

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